INTERVIEW: July Talk on New Album 'Touch,' the Future of Rock 'n' Roll, and What's Next
    • MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2016

    • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

    Canadian rock 'n' roll band July Talk recently followed up their self-titled debut with their sophomore album Touch. How does it differ from their first independent release? Well, they only embarked on a plethora of tours after that, which led them to engage with more fans and live life out on the road. Their van experience helped the band work together as five-piece when it came to writing and performing. "I can't imagine what it's like when you're just one artist, because I don't know how you'd ever know when you were right or wrong or something," frontman Peter Dreimanis explained. We also dive into where rock 'n' roll stands right now - When asked about where they see it heading in the future, front woman Leah Fay responded, "Rock 'n' roll is going to be less like what it traditionally has been." Although they consider themselves a rock 'n' roll band, they're warping the genre by writing accessible choruses and using their instruments in new and exciting ways. They're not just wailing guitar solos, but they use them to almost create grooves, in a sense. Singers Dreimanis and Fay are extremely captivating as they play off of each other and naturally act like their quirky selves, which is exemplified in one of their latest videos for "Push + Pull." Read the full interview below.

    KIRSTEN SPRUCH: So you guys just released your new album Touch and before that you were touring almost nonstop. Has touring affected the way you wrote this album?

    LEAH FAY: I think it's affected the album immensely. A lot of the songs were conceived while on the road. We're just now revisiting places where ideas for songs came about a number of years ago. When we released the first album we didn't really have any touring experience, we'd maybe played about five shows before the first time we went into the studio. So we just had no idea that the live show would be the thing that gave our band breath and gave us a stake in what we're trying to do. So learning about our live show, just experiencing everything from the world to politics to breaking news through this kind of transient lens definitely had a huge effect.

    KS: When you played shows before this album, did you gauge the audience's response to what you were doing and think "this works" or "this doesnt work"?

    LF: I think so. We're just a band that relies on the audience a lot in terms of creating an energy and feeding off that energy. It's not so much about 'this works' and 'this doesn't work' or 'this had a positive effect' and 'this has a negative effect' because that's just the nature of the chaos of life, like a bunch of bodies in a room or a bunch of people in a city. So I think that's kind of how we learned to form opinions, through playing shows and talking about the experiences we had with them and whether they completely tore us apart or whether they were uplifting and elevating.

    PETER DREIMANIS: To be fair, I think it's important to recognize that when you play a show there's no moment where you find out what worked and what didn't. It all comes from the atmosphere in the room as you're doing something. And sometimes that atmosphere can be hugely influenced by ego and your own preconceptions and what you feel about a certain new idea or a certain new way of writing or a new piece of work you've been working on. So at the end of a show anybody could walk up to you and say 'that was the best song I've ever heard' and you're not going to believe them. So you're often sort of lost, when you're playing new material live, in knowing whether it worked or didn't work. And that's when the rest of the people that you work with, the five of us, that kind of allows us to really bounce things off each other. And if all five of us end up feeling like something's really working, then we'll go with it. But often we have to use each other, because we're all going through the same thing. I can't imagine what it's like when you're just one artist, because I don't know how you'd ever know when you were right or wrong or something.

    LF: But it's like anything. I used to have a coffee shop job, and sometimes you have a magical day and everyone you meet, it feels like it's for a reason and they're shedding light on your life. And then other days it's like, someone asks you to make them a bagel and you're like 'fuck you, make your own bagel.' It's perception, it all has to do with how you're feeling in the present moment. And if you actually are rooted in the present moment, then you're able to let things wash over you and take them for what they are. And if you slept on the wrong side of the van seat and someone said something that pissed you off then there's a chance that you're going to have the worst show ever and a chance that you're going to have the best show ever for no reason at all. None of it makes sense.

    KS: You've said that during your last album a lot of people were pinning you as female v. male and pure v. evil but instead you just want to be "living, breathing humans." Why is that more exciting to you?

    LF: Part of it is just that nobody really likes to be categorized. That's in our human nature, that we don't want to feel like we're easily accessible or easily understood. Or at least most people working in art or doing anything that's creative don't want that sort of categorization. And also it's kind of way more fun to try and scare people and expand people's minds and shake them out of their tendencies and patterns and break those boxes open. When you can do it with someone else who's either listening to your music or watching you play on stage it's like it's shedding new light on yourself and different parts of your personality and your worldview as well.

    KS: And if people are categorizing you as pure v. evil it's like you're stuck in this box and you always have to be pure and Peter always has to be evil.

    LF: It's also just not true. It's not true for either of us!

    KS: Apparently your producer, Ian Davenport, encouraged you to not use click tracks or overdub too much. Is that something you're used to or was that a challenging experience?

    PD: That was super new this time around. The first record was heavily click-tracked and the whole deal, and we did do a lot of overdubbing on this one too but for the bed tracks he was just searching for that take, that one that really stuck out. And it was really about searching for that kind of groove, and he felt like the minute we put click onto it, it sort of lost a certain human element that seemed pretty necessary for the record and for the songs. Yeah, it was terrifying, it was really scary. A few songs, I think "Johnny + Mary," "Touch," "Beck + Call," are pretty much just what we did on that bed track, there's like no overdubs at all. So it was a fun process, it was like jumping off a cliff with somebody that you really, really, really respect.

    LF: Also, there's usually a period after we write and record songs where we take them on the road and they transform into the '1.1 version' of themselves. Does that make sense in computer talk? 2.0? 2.0. It's like the updated version and I think that through playing the songs over and over for hours at a time we kind of got to skip that road test process and push them to what they wanted to be in a live setting. And that's obviously what every band tries to do, to capture their live sound on record, and we're no different. We absolutely wanted to try and do that. And Davenport knew the way.

    KS: So would you record that way again?

    PD: I think it's probably a bit of a futile exercise to predict what the next record will sound like right now. A really close friend of mine, a great drummer from Canada, said you're pretty much constantly on a quest as an artist to try to make the music that it sounds like in your head. And you're never going to get there, but you're just going to get closer every time you do it. And I think that there's a chance that our band will progress in a very linear straight line, getting lower and lower fi as we go. There's a chance that well progress and do more and more liver and liver recordings, because there's something special that happens on stage when we're playing together. And I think we're getting closer and closer to trying to capture that.

    KS: What does rock 'n' roll mean for you? Where do you see it going in the future? You've said that you want rock 'n' roll to be like a religion, and I found that really interesting.

    PD: Yeah, I think that's what it's been to me. I think there's a certain part of myself that was born the moment I saw this band called The Constantines play in Edmonton, Alberta probably ten years ago. That part of me hasn't been accessed by anything except rock 'n' roll ever since. And I think that rock 'n' roll can come in all shapes in sizes, I'm not a purist trying to say that it has to come from a certain kind of instrument, but I think it's really just being able to look on the stage and understand. There's a part of me that I think exists because of it. And whenever I feel any doubt of what I do or what we're doing, it's important to remind myself that there's a chance that I have the opportunity to give that feeling to somebody else.

    KS: The feeling that you had when you saw Constantines?

    PD: Yeah, or Iggy Pop or Replacements or any of these real rock 'n' rollers. It means something different to everybody.

    LF: I think that the future of rock 'n' roll is going to be less like what it traditionally has been. Personally, when we went to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame I found it kind of alienating as a woman.

    KS: Oh, the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame is terrible.

    LF: Yeah, so I think the future of rock 'n' roll, should society accept it as a religion, has the potential to be breaking down barriers. The nature of it is saying 'fuck you' to the man and doing what you want and saying what you want and screaming really loud and not caring about what anyone says. So I think it has the potential to be a place of revolution. But I mean that sounds so cheesy, but I think that the future of rock 'n' roll will be less like what it has been and more inclusive. That's what I hope for society.

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